After speaking with entrants in last week’s Reeling for Kids Saltwater Challenge held out of Steinhatchee it seems that this, the event’s 19th edition, might have turned out to be one of the two or three toughest for fish-catching.
The common narrative among anglers that competed in both the Inshore and Offshore Division describes two days of fighting through adversity.
Weather was rough for most of the Friday/Saturday fishing period, but even worse, anglers say the fish just didn’t bite very well.
Young fishers in the Junior Inshore Angler division all entered nice redfish. David Bailey’s 4.95-pound red was the winner, Jema Brady’s 4.85 took second and Brinson Bruce had the third-place fish at 4.20.
The Junior Offshore Angler category saw only one entry—a kingfish weighing 11.70 taken by Peyton English. Peyton’s king was one of just two seen throughout the tournament.
Like the juniors, Lady Angler Inshore winners all entered redfish. Skyler Hanna’s winner weighed 5.20, Amanda Bailey bagged a 4.90 red, and Brittany English’s 4.40 took third place.
In the Open Fish division, Jim Sanders’ 30.10 black drum was the winner. Bradley English also had a drum at 26.20, and Ray Hedgecock was third with a 21.70 barracuda.
In the heavily contested Trout category, it was Brayton Lowe with a fine 6.00, Kyle Wilson with a 4.70, and Garrett Smith with a 4.45.
Redfish winners were Bo Dudley with a 7.55-pound catch, Shawn Simmons with 7.20, and Brandon Massimillo at 6.80 for third.
The wind was tough on Spanish mackerel fishers, as Ben Bailey’s 3.5 was the winner, Brian Fogarty had a 2.55, and Rick Pena’s 2.35 was third.
There was no cobia weighed in and only one kingfish among the adult anglers. Hal Chambers caught that fish—a 13.75-pounder that paved the way to his team’s overall Masters Offshore win.
In the Red/Gag Grouper division, Darrell Bessinger was the winner with a 17.50 Gag. Hal Chambers was right behind with a 16.10, and Ray Hedgecock had the third best Gag at 15.55.
The Mangrove Snapper winners were Darrell Bessinger (6.15), Phil Wagner (3.80), and Hal Chambers (2.75).
As always, the tournament’s biggest prizes went to the Master’s champions.
The Masters Inshore winners were the Ben Bailey Team with a Trout/Red/Spanish mackerel trio weighing 12.35. The Garrett Smith Team’s total was 11.60, and the Bradley English Team totaled 11.30.
Only one team managed to catch all three required species in the Masters Offshore competition. The Hal Chambers Team had a Grouper/Mangrove snapper/Kingfish trifecta totaling 41.70 pounds.